Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
“Generally left to my own devices the one I am most devoted to is me!”:
Now clearly that is a debatable statement and there are probably few who are so self-obsessed that they are the only ones who figure in their lives.
Because of common grace, which stems from all of us being made in the image of God, the majority of us have more or less inclination to think of others. It is also true that there are those who are not believers who shame those who claim to be believes by their outgoing concern for others, while even more worryingly there are believers who bring shame on the name of Christ in their lack of concern for others.
Paul addresses this conundrum here in our passage when he urges his readers to be ‘devoted to one another in love’ a theme picked up by Peter in his second letter chapter 1.5-12 which will make the challenge of the Romans passage even more powerful.
So the question for us to meditate on this morning is ‘How devoted am I to others?’
Within a church it is a ‘rubber hits the road’ question and it is a hard standard that Paul sets, for the congregation in any church is, like it or not, a mixed bag!
There are those who we are naturally drawn to and there are those with whom, if we are truly honest, we find relationships hard. We don’t ignore the latter category but we probably don’t go out of our way to engage with them in any meaningful way but Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit sets this bench mark – Be devoted to one another in love.
John, in his first letter writes
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4.10
And he follows it in the same chapter v.19-21 with
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
So there is no escape form the command to be devoted to one another in love.
Can we begin to imagine what such a community of God’s people would be like?
And one final question
What do I need to do to move my church a step closer to that standard?